Many people think the phrase “In God We Trust” began with the Founding Fathers. The phrase was actually signed into law by President Dwight D. Eisenhower on July 30th, 1956 a mere 57 years ago. Does this make a difference? I don’t think so, but many do. Two years prior to that the phrase “under God” was inserted into the pledge of allegiance and some might think that because it wasn’t a decision made by the Founding Fathers that it should be left out.
“In God We Trust” became the nation’s official motto and it was then mandated that the phrase be printed on all US paper money. Although it is true that the phrase has been placed on U.S. coins since the Civil War when religious sentiment reached a peak. President Eisenhower’s treasury secretary, George Humphrey, suggested adding the phrase to paper currency as well.
The first paper money with the phrase “In God We Trust” was printed in 1957 and since then religious and secular groups have argued over the appropriateness and constitutionality that mentions “God” because the founding fathers were dedicated to maintaining the separation of church and state.
Presidential biographers insist that Eisenhower embraced religion but never intended to force his beliefs on anyone. At a Flag Day speech in 1954, he explained why he wanted to included “under God” in the pledge of allegiance: “In this way we are reaffirming the transcendence of religious faith in America’s heritage and future; in this way we shall constantly strengthen those spiritual weapons which forever will be our country’s most powerful resource in peace and war.”
The chapel-like structure near where he and his wife Mamie are buried on the grounds of his presidential library is called the “Place of Meditation”—intentionally nondenominational.